Freeman Cebu Sports


FGS Gujilde - The Freeman

No one should write about the epic Australian Open men’s final last Sunday. No words are captive of its grandeur with exactitude. But I will dare. Daniil Medvedev took the opening set. All right. Rafael Nadal is now warmed up and ready to get even. He was about to, but lost a comfortable lead twice in the second set, including a bungled set point. Daniil was just one set away from winning his second major.

Begrudgingly, I drafted the title of this column. Denial King. Medvedev is, after he denied Novak Djokovic last year a record-breaking 21 slams and a rare calendar grand slam. And now would have been against Nadal, who may have reached the Australian Open final for the last time. Apart from the French Open, this is his last clear chance to reach 21. The last time he recovered from that losing score line was 15 years ago. And two months earlier he was uncertain if he could ever play tennis again due to a career-threatening ankle injury. But what magic, the king of clay defied time and logic.

Any other man in that situation would have been shattered mentally. But not the battle-scarred Mallorcan bull. He started over and bailed himself out of a straight sets loss. He pocketed the third set. That was it. Medvedev must have just humored the balding history making Spanish bull. But he raged on to take the fourth set to force a decider.

Still I continued the draft story about the denial king. There is no way Rafa could sustain the momentum. At 35, it was unlikely he would survive five sets of tennis brutality against an opponent ten years his junior. On a punishing hard court. I stopped writing when Rafa led in the deciding set. But somehow the Russian found a way to break back. It was too close virtually no point set them apart.

I was about to trash the draft when Rafa served for the match. But Daniil broke back to even the match after more than five hours. Done? Not yet. Rafa stormed to break back and again served for the championship. I stopped writing. Anything can happen. They played so even it looked like luck just favored the Spaniard in the end. Or destiny. Earlier Rafa somehow conceded his ageing body may not hold up against his younger opponents. He is no longer 21. But after 5 hours and 24 minutes, he just won 21.

Damn. I had to rewrite everything, history reiterated exact same thing, no one will ever know what will happen. And a miracle just happened. The king of clay who was at the cusp of losing the final down under the fifth time, got back on his feet to reprise his feat in 2009 when he completed a career slam achieved only by a few good men, including Andre Agassi and later Roger Federer. But soon Djokovic joined them. It became a club of a few good men and another.

Now Rafa joins three other men in history to have taken each major title at least twice. One of them is Novak who earlier made it to the elite company of three. With the gentleman Rafael Nadal in, there are still three. Plus one.


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